Cisco Live is always an incredible event. It was an amazing experience from the sessions, to the speakers and the after hour events! There was just an incredible amount of energy and discussion across many different industries. We discussed business outcomes, digitization, and how cybersecurity is a top concern with analysts and media. Let’s take a closer look at the week in review. Note – this blog is longer than usual to be a comprehensive snapshot of all things Energy at Cisco Live.

We started off with IoT Utility Day on Monday, which was a jam packed day of sessions talking about how the Utilities of the future are going to be leaner, greener, and more customer-centric.

Rob Soderbury, Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Enterprise Products and Solutions, kicked off the day talking about Digitization and the impact on the industry. Rob featured a quote from Ted Craver, CEO of Edison International:

“The utility industry will change more in the next 10 yrs than it has in the past 100.”


He was followed by Steve Hauser, CEO at GridWise Alliance, who talked about the Grid Modernizaton Index.

Steve brought up 4 Important Business Laws including a crowd favorite, “For every useful action there is an equal & opposite government program”:


He also discussed the growing gap in grid modernization between states:


After that Nadya Bartol, the VP of Industry Affairs and Cybersecurity Strategist at Utilities Technology Council, led the session Securing Critical Infrastructure and shared why IT and OT are so different:


And that “Security spending is driven by compliance, but it opens a dialogue on prepping for the future.”


And luckily these days “most of the highest security individuals report to the C-Suite.”

During the panel Changing Business Models and Strategies for Growth, Michael Dulaney, Cisco’s Director of Business Development for Utilities & Power Vertical moderated a panel discussion featuring John Nachilly, Eversource Energy’s Enterprise Architect, and Van Holsomback, Georgia Power’s Manager of the Control and Automation Group.

The focus of the discussion was the changing relationship between utilities and their customers as online social networks and the instant response of online retailers have dramatically raise the bar of customer expectations. Utilities are also looking to develop new products and services in a quest for growth beyond the supplier of commodity electric power. John and Van discussed similarities and regional differences in the approaches and strategies of their utilities.

We then watched the high energy Cisco Live Keynote which started off with an acrobatic performance leading into a conversation with Chuck Robbins and Karen Walker.

The big takeaways were:

I hosted the second panel discussion of the day on Managing the IT/OT Convergence with Gary Hayes, CenterPoint Energy’s SVP & CIO of Technology Operations, and Joseph Santamaria, PSEG Services Corporation’s VP of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer.

Here are some notable quotes:

  • Look at IT & OT convergence as if it is a natural business process.
  • IT and OT need to work together to find efficiencies to benefit the business.
  • On barriers to convergence: “It’s typically less the lack of funds… what’s lacking is executive leadership and getting joint leadership between IT and OT. We spent 4 weeks meeting together and have to talk about where we are today and where we will be 5 years from now.”
  • Never let a crisis go to waste.

Jeff Gooding, Southern California Edison’s IT Principal Manager of Enterprise Architecture – Energy & Cybersecurity presented on Technology and the Impact to the Utility Industry and that we need improvements in these areas:


One of his quotes was:

“Things can go BOOM when data doesn’t get to the right place at the right time.”


Jeff described the massive project that SCE is undertaking to develop Advanced Distribution Management System capabilities that will be required to maintain reliability and grid stability with the growth of distributed generation in the form of rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources.

Karen Lefkowitz, VP of Smart Grid & Technology at Pepco Holdings, LLC, closed Utility Day with her keynote The State of the Electric Industry: What Does the Future Hold. Here are a few highlights:

  • Everyone talks about microgrids… and we haven’t made them profitable YET.
  • Germany has wind turbines everywhere but is still burning as much coal as ever.
  • Texas is the reddest state with the greenest power.
  • One day we [the electric power industry] will be a commodity like cable. The present business model of Volumetric sales [that bundle infrastructure costs with electric power costs] won’t survive. Even though cumulative sales of power are reduced by energy produced by distributed generation, that doesn’t reduce demands on the grid for transporting power from one place to another, the supplier of peak demand, and the supplier of last resort. It seems clear that in the future there will have to be separate charges for the connection to the grid and electric power kilowatthours.


After Utility Day, we spent most of our time around the Digital Utilities booth. We had fun filming a security demo of our SecureOps solution (which supports multiple industries) on Periscope:

We also enjoyed the Virtual Reality demo of a digital utility environment:


And we even did an Oil & Gas demo through Periscope on worker safety and productivity:

Our last presentation was by my colleague Eric Ehlers on the challenges in the energy industry:


He shared that energy firms must overcome three key challenges:

  •  Integrating data from multiple sources
  • Automating the collection of data
  • Analyzing data to effectively identify actionable insights

Finally we attended the two guest keynotes. The first one featured Jason Silva which was an absolute must-see (recording here). The quotes below should speak for themselves:

  • “Technology is the human mind turned inside out. We use technology to overcome our boundaries.”
  • “Our brains evolved in a world that was linear and local. Our intuition is linear. We don’t live in a linear and local world anymore. We live in a world that is globally interconnected and that is exponential in its nature. Technology evolves in exponential rates.”


  • “If you take 30 linear steps, by step 30 you get to 30. If you take the same 30 steps but you do it exponentially, by step 30 you’re at a billion. That is the reason that the smartphone in our pocket today is a million times cheaper and a million times smaller yet a thousand times more powerful than what used to be a $60M supercomputer that was half a building in size 40 years ago and you needed special permission to get access to it. Now it fits in your pocket. Tools to change the world are in everybody’s hands.”

Finally the conference ended with a closing keynote by Kevin Spacey:

  • “Create something that you find compelling and others will too. Don’t try to create for the masses. Tell your own story. Tell what you know. That’s what gets me to share content.”


  • “Place a bet on those who are not afraid to challenge the powers that be.”
  • “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain there can be no mercy. There is but one rule – hunt or be hunted.”

To feel like you were there, view all of our tweets from Cisco Live here! And check out our presentations from the sessions in our archive. See you in Vegas next year!

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Rick Geiger

Executive Director

Utilities and Smart Grid